Casino Management Debate Rages Again

Russell Schenck just completed the first gaming management course taught in Mississippi. Tulane's Biloxi campus -- and not a state school -- came up with the curriculum. "My ultimate goal is to become a GM of a property. And to do what it takes to become one," he said.

Schenck is from Biloxi. His resume includes a stint on the old Southern Elegance. And almost 11 years with Casino Magic. He's been a dealer, a floor supervisor, a pit manager, an assistant shift manager and now a shift manager. Getting off the floor and into an administrative office is his next ambition. "If it means I have to go get a degree, if it means I've got to put in extra hours, if it means I have to work seven days a week, I'm going to work and aspire to that," he said.

The problem still facing employees like Schenck is experience. The casinos' track record has been to hire administrators who understand every aspect of a resort. More often than not, those executives come from outside Mississippi.

Some of that experience can be taught in a classroom. But Mississippi still won't let its colleges teach gaming management. And even though the next GM for Grand Casino is from outside the state, Representative Roger Ishee doesn't expect the casino management ban to be lifted. "This may stir it up a little bit," Ishee said. "But I don't look for anyone to really commit to make a change during this election year."

Schenck would like those opposed to casino management to do an about face. He said, "The state needs to help their people move up and become executives and to be home grown from the state of Mississippi," because he expects to be one of those home grown casino executives, with or without the state's assistance.

Tulane's second gaming management course was supposed to begin Tuesday. But for a variety of reasons, it was canceled. The course instructor said Tulane will offer it again in September.